SPA: Smart Phone Assisted Chronic Illness Self-Management with Participatory Sensing

Motivation        Our Approach         People        Publications  


The medical system has not adapted effectively to the dramatic change in health needs, which have shifted from acute disease to chronic, lifestyle-related illnesses.  The prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, chronic pain, obesity, asthma, HIV, and other chronic illnesses require substantial patient behavior change and self-management (Glasgow et al., 2006).  People need to monitor their bodies, reduce physiological arousal, increase physical activity, and avoid or change harmful environments.  Yet, people do these tasks poorly—particularly those at increased risk for health problems, such as urban minorities—and easily deployed tools to assist people are needed.  The prevention or treatment of chronic illnesses will be greatly aided by an innovative system that can monitor people’s bodies, behavior, and environments during daily life, and then instruct them to take corrective action when health risks are identified. This goal supports Bill Gates’ view, as noted in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “What we need is to put people at the very center of the health-care system and put them in control of all of their health information” (October 5, 2007).  On the other hand, the proliferation of Web-enabled cell phones, which allow us to sensor the physical environment, such as sound, images, locations, and so on, has created a new computing paradigm, participatory sensing, which will task deployed mobile devices to form interactive, participatory sensor networks that enable public and professional users to gather, analyze and share local knowledge. The joint force of "technology push" and "application pull''  drives us to develop a novel approach for chronic illness self-management. The SPA project.


Our  Approach

We propose to develop SPA, a Smart Phone based system that assists chronic illness self-management. In the initial step,  we build a prototype that leverage smart phone and body area network of biosensors  to measure a person’s heart rate (oximeter), physical activity (actigraph), and exposure to environmental noise.  The Smart phone transmits personal bio-environmental sensor data from the body area network to a central server.  The server collects, analyzes, and feeds back instructions to the Smart phone user, based on predetermined algorithms.  We will field test the system on a small sample of urban African Americans to ensure its acceptability and functionality, and we will demonstrate the validity of the obtained data by sending to participants brief survey questions via the text option on the cell phone.  The questions will assess the participant’s stress, activity, and environment, and survey responses will confirm that the sensor-based data are consistent with the participant’s reports.  In future research, we will adapt this system to monitor other physiological parameters specific to certain diseases (e.g., blood pressure for those with hypertension, blood glucose for people with diabetes, muscle tension for people with chronic pain).  Also, future uses could monitor additional environmental risk factors, such as using global positioning to help people avoid unhealthy locations (e.g., for people trying to avoid alcohol or drug use).   

We have developed a prototype running on top of Nokia N95, donated by Nokia. More details of the project will come soon. 

This project has been partially supported by Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research (2009-2012) and Wayne State University (2007-2008).



            Kewei Sha (Now at Oklahoma City University)

            Shinan Wang

            Guoxing Zhan
            Dr. Weisong Shi

            Dr. Bengt B. Arnetz, Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences

            Dr. Mark A. Lumley, Department of Psychology

            Dr. Clairy Wiholm, Department of Family Medicine